Haus of Pain

An update on ‘Carloft‘, the bizarre new apartment block round the corner from me (Kreuzberg SO36) which allows you to take your car to bed with you. Or at least bring it into your apartment, with the use of a big lift. From the sales site, it looks like you have to have quite a flash car if you want to live there (not really worth paying for all that extra space just to keep an old VW campervan in your living room I suppose, although that would be quite cool – you could put guests up in it and they wouldn’t have to buzz to come in and use the toilet).

The whole thing is bemusing, as Kreuzberg isn’t really the sort of place people have expensive cars. In fact it’s the sort of place where most people don’t have a car at all. Schöneberg perhaps? Maybe the developers spotted a gap in the market for people who live in Kreuzberg with nice cars and want to avoid having them torched (there’s been quite a lot of this going on in Berlin lately).

Whatever your view on such things, Carloft in nearly-finished form is a disappointment. I was expecting a glass facade which you could gaze at in awe as cars moved silently between floors, even though you hate the whole idea on principle. In fact, Carloft looks like an old 1930s garage building converted into apartments, with a singular lack of flair. In fact, it appears that the car isn’t even quite in your apartment, but in a semi-open bay next to it. Which could have been a nice balcony instead.

The concept, for those who struggle with the idea of a car, a loft, and a lift:

And some images of the outside


Aesthetically though, it could be worse. Even closer to me, on Paul-Lincke-Ufer itself, they’re demolishing a perfectly good two storey 60s building to build a piece of apology architecture:

I use the term ‘apology architecture’ as it’s designed to apologise for its presence; not for this building any recognisable style (especially modernism) which might offend. It’s timeless, but in a bad way. The worst thing is that just to the left, out of shot, is H H Müller’s rather wonderful Abspannwerk, which was clearly designed to form part of a continuous terrace, which the existing building continues. The new building will create an unnecessary gap, in order, I guess, to create far more (saleable) frontage facing obliquely onto the canal.

Is every new residential building going up in Berlin wrongheaded pastiche? No. There’s some possibly wrongheaded cutting-edge modernism as well , currently emerging out of the frozen ground up on the junction of Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße and Tortraße, by architect Roger Bundschuh and artist Cosima von Bonin, called L40. Lots of images, and floorplans, over here at Dezeen.

Actually, I quite like the look of this. It’s different from the neo-wedding-cake approach (e.g. Paul-Lincke-Ufer) and the default-setting modernism-lite (most of Prenzlauerberg) – it’s actual Architecture, with a capital ‘A’. I assume the surface is intended to be dark grey shuttered concrete, giving it the look of a converted military installation. Which can be a good thing, I think. Nonetheless, I used the word ‘wrongheaded’ earlier, as the floorplans seem to be utterly enslaved by the shape of the building’s footprint (the comments section on the Dezeen piece is worth reading).

Nice as it undoubtedly is to live in a contemporary art gallery, one is given to wonder whether the digital rendering of an interior, viewed on a flat screen, reflects how such pointy rooms will feel when you’re actually in them. What if our own curvy, wide angle, binocular vision makes something quite different of the spaces, so that we’re unable to walk up one of those acute staircases without bumping into the wall and feeling queasy?

I’m not sure anyone living there would invite me round anyway, so have decided not to worry.

Post-post note:

It’s only fair to say that just after I posted, Roger Bundschuh sent me a surprisingly friendly email, offering to let me have a look round the building as it progresses, and pointing out that that, at the very least, my final statement is incorrect.  This caused me to re-read what I’d written, and I was surprised at how randomly harsh I’d been.  I won’t rewrite it, since that’s not in the sprit of ill-informed, self-opinionated blogs like mine, but I have written the paragraph that you’re reading now.


Dusk in Tegel.

Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now; there’s about to be more 1980s postmodernism.

As promised, a post with some images of housing at Tegel, with a selection of buildings forming part of the IBA 1984/1987. These are a long way from the regeneration-needy areas of Kreuzberg in southern Berlin where most of the IBA projects lie; Tegel is a much wealthier spot, and these blocks are set on the harbour opening out into the lake. In this part of the IBA the accent was perhaps more show home than urban regeneration.

The final stage of the original masterplan – buildings on the harbour island – remained on paper. My IBA source book indicates this was to be an Arts, Education and Leisure complex, although there is now new housing going up instead. The Humboldt library building immediately to the east was built though, as well as Gustav Peichl’s phosphate elimination plant across the road. I didn’t get that far mind you, as I was freezing my knackers off, frankly.

Dated po-mo? You bet. But strangely… well, you decide.

I was just struck, by the way, by how ‘American Gothic’ the pair of John Hejduk houses look (see the couple of images at the end).

By the way, it’s generally thought that the best architecture photos are those taken in bright summer sunshine.  These were taken at freezing dusk in the middle of winter. It gives them a melancholy air though, don’t you think? And as an added bonus, the landscaping of much of the site reminded me of the snow-bound topiary in Kubrick’s The Shining. Oh dear.

Complete photos set (including some added a few years after this post, and Gustav Peichl’s water treatment plant).

Firstly, the mid-rise ‘courtyard’ blocks by Moore, Ruble, Yudell:

The Humboldt Library at Tegel, also by Moore, Ruble, Yudell (same architects who just finished the new American Embassy in Berlin, to much thunderous indifference). Closed that day, but interiors are interesting, from the images in the IBA guide:

Coming to a waterside area near you, soon:

Below – Moore, Ruble, Yudell (left) Poly, Steinebach, Weber (centre) plus Robert Stern (right).  Quite cold now.

Poly, Steinebach, Weber (detail):

Stanley Tigerman. Really very cold by this point:

Paolo Portoghesi:

Residential terrace by Bangert, Jansen, Scholz, Schultes:

Antoine Grumbach (Freezing):

Finally, John Hejduk. See one of his other two IBA projects here.  Too cold after this to work the camera, so back to the U-Bahn:

Out of town.

In London at the moment, with a bit of time to spare. So cunningly, before leaving Berlin, I put a pile of recent images I’d taken onto a disk, in order to edit and upload from here.

A shame then that I left the disk on the table in the flat in Berlin. Arse.

So instead of a blog about a trip to the IBA buildings at Tegel on a freezing winter evening, or another one about the demolition of a building near me on the Ufer which is being replaced with something ghastly, or an update on ‘Carloft’, just a bit of random wittering.

My girlfriend uploaded the Tegel pictures she took; here are a couple, to keep you distracted from this post’s lack of real content:

Tegel is the north westerly part of Berlin, a quite posh part in fact, and rather beautiful on the day we visited. Tegel (or to be more accurate, the borough of Reinickendorf) seems to be twinned with Greenwich (in southeast London, not New York) which sort of makes sense. The main promenade features London street signs and a red phone box. Curiously, both areas have large scale construction from the eighties – the former being the money-fuelled blandless of Canary Wharf, the latter being the IBA-fuelled madness of postmodernism. More on this when I get home and upload all the images.

We had no idea that the lake and harbour would be completely frozen, with skaters and assorted winter sports.

What else?

Oh yes – following my recent rants about the reconstruction of the Schloss (see ‘All Just A Facade’), I came across a good site here, summarising items in the press about it (some in english), and also ‘Kein Schloss in meinem Namen‘ (No Castle in my name) – a petition against it. You put your protest photo in, it’s cool. Not sure if I can add mine, as I’m not german, so it’s not strictly speaking ‘in my name’ at all. I pay taxes to Berlin though (any thoughts, readers?).

I note from the Schloss’s fundraising newspaper that, bizarrely, the apparently-not-dead Henry Kissinger is backing the Schloss scheme and attending fundraising dinners. Judge your enemies by the friends they keep, to misquote a phrase. In fact, it’s like hearing that Albert Speer is still knocking around, and has thrown his weight behind the construction of a new triumphal arch. (Weirdly, Albert Speer’s son, also named Albert Speer, is still around, and is an architect. You’d change your name, wouldn’t you?)

Right, off to look at London things now.

What’s on

I’ve not been very good at this so far.  So much so, that I’d recommend going to read Baustelle, where they mention quite a few events, if you scroll through.  Their Twitter feed is also good –  in fact it’s all rather more up to date than my witterings about arcane 80s architecture and such like.

A couple of recent things that I would recommend though:

  • The gargantuan Modell Bauhaus show at the Gropius Bau, which I’ve recently mentioned, runs until 4th October 09.  There’s also Le Corbusier: Kunst & Architektur, running at the same venue, till 5th October.
  • … and because all the material from the Bauhaus Archiv is over at Gropiusbau, the building is empty, but open to the public!  Designed by Walther Gropius, whose great uncle designed the (Martin) Gropius Bau, in case you were wondering.  Until 4th October.
  • The Mythos Germania exhibition details Hitler & Speer’s megalomaniac plans to build a new german capital after winning the war, and is not to be missed. At Pavillon Gertrud-Kolmar-Straße 14 (close to the Holocaust Memorial, and runs until the end of 2009. See also my own post on this.
  • One that I’ve not mentioned before, as it’s not usually so directly ‘architecture’ related, but the Brohan-Museum is running an exhibition of  book designs by Henry Van de Velde (better known as an architect) – Henry van de Velde – Buchkunst, vom Jugendstil zum Bauhau (Book Art, from Jugendstil to the Bauhaus).  I’ve not been to the Brohan, but looks worth going to see its apparently fabulaous Jugendstil/Art Nouveau collection.  Runs until 20th September.

It’s always worth checking the following venues for architecture related things:

One that I’ve not mentioned before, as it’s not usually so directly ‘architecture’ related, but the Brohan-Museum is running an exhibition of  book designs by Henry Van de Velde (better known as an architect) – Henry van de Velde – Buchkunst, vom Jugendstil zum Bauhau (Book Art, from Jugendstil to the Bauhaus).  I’ve not been to the Brohan, but looks worth going to see its apparently fabulaous Jugendstil/Art Nouveau collection.  Runs until 20th September.